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Faustina the Younger

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Faustina the Younger
Bust, c. 161 AD
Roman empress
Tenure7 March 161 – 175
(alongside Lucilla from 164–169)
Bornc. 130
Rome, Italy
Died175/76 (aged c. 45)
Halala, Cappadocia
(m. 145)
Among others
Cornificia Faustina minor
Annius Verus
Annia Galeria Faustina Minor
Regnal name
Annia Galeria Faustina Augusta Minor
FatherAntoninus Pius
MotherFaustina the Elder

Annia Galeria Faustina the Younger (c. 130 AD,[1][4] – 175/176 AD)[5] was Roman empress from 161 to her death as the wife of emperor Marcus Aurelius, her maternal cousin. Faustina was the youngest child of emperor Antoninus Pius and empress Faustina the Elder. She was held in high esteem by soldiers and her husband as Augusta and Mater Castrorum ('Mother of the Camp') and was given divine honours after her death.



Early life

Marble statue of Faustina the Younger (165 AD) – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome.

Faustina, named after her mother, was her parents' fourth and youngest child and second daughter; she was also their only child to survive to adulthood. She was born and raised in Rome.[citation needed]

Her second cousin three times removed, Hadrian, had arranged with her father for Faustina to marry Lucius Verus. On 25 February 138, she and Verus were betrothed. Verus' father was Hadrian's first adopted son and his intended heir; however, when Verus' father died, Hadrian chose Faustina's father to be his second adopted son, and eventually, he became Hadrian's successor. Faustina's father ended the engagement between his daughter and Verus and arranged for Faustina's betrothal to her biological maternal cousin, Marcus Aurelius; Aurelius was also adopted by her father.[citation needed]

Imperial heiress

Bust of Marcus Aurelius in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey

In April or May 145,[6] Faustina and Marcus Aurelius were married, as had been planned since 138. Since Aurelius was, by adoption, Antoninus Pius' son, under Roman law he was marrying his sister; Antoninus would have had to formally release one or the other from his paternal authority (his patria potestas) for the ceremony to take place.[7] Little is specifically known of the ceremony, but it is said to have been "noteworthy".[8] Coins were issued with the heads of the couple, and Antoninus, as Pontifex maximus, would have officiated. Marcus makes no apparent reference to the marriage in his surviving letters, and only sparing references to Faustina.[9] Faustina was given the title of Augusta on 1 December 147 after the birth of her first child, Domitia Faustina.[10]



When Antoninus died on 7 March 161, Marcus and Lucius Verus ascended to the throne and became co-rulers. Faustina then became empress. Following the birth of her first child in 147, Faustina obtained the title of Augusta granted to her by the Senate, before her husband Marcus Aurelius became Augustus himself in 161.[11]

Aureus of Antoninus Pius, struck at the Rome mint, dated c. 147–152. Obv: Bust of Faustina the Younger. Rev: Goddess Concordia standing.

Not much has survived from the Roman sources regarding Faustina's life, but what is available does not give a good report. Cassius Dio and the unreliable Historia Augusta accuse Faustina of ordering deaths by poison and execution; she has also been accused of instigating the revolt of Avidius Cassius against her husband. The Historia Augusta mentions adultery with sailors, gladiators, and men of rank; however, Faustina and Aurelius seem to have been very close and mutually devoted.[12]

Faustina accompanied her husband on various military campaigns and enjoyed the excessive love and reverence of Roman soldiers. Aurelius gave her the title of Mater Castrorum or 'Mother of the Camp'. She attempted to make her home out of an army camp. Between 170 and 175, she was in the north, and in 175, she accompanied Aurelius to the east.

Revolt of Avidius Cassius and death

Replica denarius of Marcus Aurelius, struck at the Rome mint, dated 175. Obv: Bust of Faustina the Younger. Rev: Pietas standing.

That same year, 175, Aurelius's general Avidius Cassius was proclaimed Roman emperor after the erroneous news of Marcus's death;[13] the sources indicate Cassius was encouraged by Marcus' wife Faustina, who was concerned about her husband's failing health, believing him to be on the verge of death, and felt the need for Cassius to act as a protector in this event, since her son Commodus, aged 13, was still young.[13][14] She also wanted someone who would act as a counter-weight to the claims of Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, who was in a strong position to take the office of Princeps in the event of Marcus's death.[15] The evidence, including Marcus's own Meditations, supports the idea that Marcus was indeed quite ill,[15] but by the time Marcus recovered, Cassius was already fully acclaimed by the Egyptian legions of II Traiana Fortis and XXII Deiotariana.[citation needed]

"After a dream of empire lasting three months and six days", Cassius was murdered by a centurion;[16] his head was sent to Marcus Aurelius, who refused to see it and ordered it buried.[14] Egypt recognized Marcus as emperor again by 28 July 175.[16]

The facts concerning the death of Faustina are not definite. She died in the winter of 175 at the military camp in Halala (a city in the Taurus Mountains in Cappadocia). The causes of her death are of speculation of scholars and range from death from natural causes, suicide, an accident, or even possibly assassination in retaliation for her alleged affair with Cassius earlier that year, depending on the source. [citation needed]

Aurelius grieved much for his wife and buried her in the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome. She was deified, with her statue placed in the Temple of Venus in Rome and a temple dedicated to her in her honor. Halala's name was changed to Faustinopolis and Aurelius opened charity schools for orphan girls called Puellae Faustinianae or 'Girls of Faustina'.[17] The Baths of Faustina in Miletus are named after her.

Marriage and issue

Sestertius celebrating the birth of Commodus and his twin brother
Marble statue of Faustina's daughter and joint empress Lucilla, Bardo National Museum, Tunisia

In their thirty years of marriage, Faustina and Marcus Aurelius had at least fourteen children, including two sets of twins. Only six of them survived to adulthood, five daughters and the son Commodus.[18]

Faustina's role as a mother was glorified, and with the birth of her daughter Fadilla, coins were issued portraying her as Juno Lucina.[11]

Their known children were:[18]

Nerva–Antonine family tree





  1. ^ Levick (2014), p. 170, gives the year of her birth as 130–132.
  2. ^ Feriale Duranum 3.7.
  3. ^ Inscriptiones Italiae 13(02): 43.
  4. ^ The Feriale Duranum records the birthday of Diva Faustina as 20–22 September (between 10 and 12 days before the kalends of October).[2] However, this could be either Faustina II or her mother Faustina I. A Roman inscription records the birthday of Faustinae uxoris Antonini as 16 February (14 days before the kalends of March).[3] The text could refer to either Faustina II, who married Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, or Faustina I, who married Antoninus Pius.
  5. ^ Levick 2014, p. 172.
  6. ^ Levick 2014, pp. 170.
  7. ^ Birley 2000, pp. 90–91.
  8. ^ "Antoninus Pius", Historia Augusta, 10.2, qtd. and tr. (Birley 2000, p. 91).
  9. ^ Birley 2000, p. 91.
  10. ^ Levick 2014, pp. 63, 170.
  11. ^ a b Madenholm, Terry (14 December 2021). "Before Barbie: Why Girls Played With Dolls in the Roman Empire". Haaretz.
  12. ^ "Collections Online | British Museum". www.britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2024-02-18.
  13. ^ a b Birley 2001, p. 184.
  14. ^ a b Smith 1870, p. 441.
  15. ^ a b Birley 2001, p. 185.
  16. ^ a b Birley 2001, p. 189.
  17. ^ "Life of Marcus Aurelius", Historia Augusta, 26.4–9, retrieved 31 March 2014
  18. ^ a b Birley, Anthony R. (2012-12-06). Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. Routledge. pp. 103–108, 114, 206–208. ISBN 978-1-134-69569-0.